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Anti-Vedanta protests mar JLF event in South Bank, London

"This event is giving credibility to a criminal company guilty of killing thousands," says a protester,

Anti-Vedanta activists disrupted the proceedings of the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF) held at the South Bank on Saturday -- for a short while they even occupying one of the foyer venues where the prestigious literary event was held in London.

Through placards and speeches the activists gave vent to their anger at JLF accepting as its main sponsor the British mining company Vedanta, which they said “has multiple criminal convictions and an abusive pattern of operation.” They also disrupted the presentation by NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt, protesting against the television company taking Vedanta funding for their “Our Girls Our Pride” campaign.

Call for a boycott of the event

Scientist and writer Aarathi Prasad and K. Satchidanandan, a Malayalam and English poet withdrew from participating in the event, in response to an open letter with a hundred signatories issued by Round Table India calling for a boycott of the event.

In a statement on Vedanta’s mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, Naren Bedide, editor of Round Table India, said: “Niyamgiri is a moral question, above all. Stealing someone else's home, Gods, land is immoral ... All the world's words are not enough to whitewash Vedanta. Justice, you know clearly in your hearts, is on the other side, on the side of those who posit their humanity against your clumsy scramble for excuses.”

‘Credibility to a criminal firm’

“This event is giving credibility to a criminal company guilty of killing thousands,” Miriam Rose, an anti-Vedanta organiser, told The Hindu. “The JLF is trying to minimize the damage by taking the Vedanta logo off their festival poster and programme book. It is not true to say that Vedanta has not been found guilty. They have been found guilty of causing serious environmental damage in a Zambian court, and that case is now being heard in the U.K. courts.”

A spokesperson for Vedanta told The Hindu that Vedanta was fully compliant with the law. “Vedanta has stopped mining in Odisha, but looking at the protests you would think that the company is still in there.”

They chose to disrupt: fest producer

Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the festival, told The Hindu that while he was willing to “engage in a conversation” with the protestors, they chose instead to “disrupt the proceedings.”

“We cannot look at the colour of money that sponsors bring to the table, nor can we be the judge of whether Vedanta is guilty or not, the courts have to do that. We are a platform for all kinds of conversations, and in today’s world it is important to support platforms that defend free speech.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 3:46:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/antivedanta-protests-mar-jlf-event-in-south-bank-london/article8633117.ece

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